When violence broke out in Ferguson late Sunday, St. Louis Public Radio reporters Stephanie Lecci and Durrie Bouscaren took refuge in a family’s home. Bouscaren asked them what life is like right now in the formerly quiet suburb.
We met the Moore family in the middle of the night, after running from tear gas and gunfire during Sunday night’s clash between police and protestors. Stranded miles away from our cars, we knocked on the door of a house with the lights still on. Irma Moore let us in.
Moore’s five children were snuggled into blankets on the living room couch, watching a local news station broadcasting the violence just a block away.
“I just want it all to end. This is day nine of being up all night, having someone on watch … till 2 or 3 in the morning,” Moore said.
Moore is an assistant principal at the Dewey International Studies School in St. Louis. She moved to the neighborhood in 2007, because it was quiet. Down the street from a police station, it’s walking distance to the local high school. Most of the Moore’s neighbors are elderly — she says many of them left earlier in the week, checking into hotels to wait out the violence.
The Moores stayed, worried their home would be broken into. But the family is paying a price for that decision. When police use tear gas to disperse protestors, it seeps into their home.
“You wake up with your face itching,” Moore said. When they start to smell it in the house, they turn off the air conditioning, because “it comes right through.”
Moore’s youngest child is 3, and her oldest is 16.
Ten-year-old BreaDora says it’s been a sad week.
“I can’t go to sleep, I just hear shots and stuff,” BreaDora said. “I can’t go to soccer practice. I can’t go outside and play. I can’t go to bed at night.”
Moore says the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer resonated with her.
“The very person that’s supposed to be protecting him took his life,” Moore said. She said it made her think of her 15-year-old son Marcus, and his safety when he walks alone at night.
“He’s been arrested by Ferguson since he’s lived here — for skateboarding with his friends near an abandoned lot,” Moore said. “My son is an honor roll student, never been in trouble.”
Marcus was 14 when the officer cornered him and his friends. When he began to walk away, Marcus said the officer pointed a Taser at him, made him put his hands on the wall and searched his backpack.
“He was also cursing at me, like ‘Get the f— down, shut the h— up,” Marcus said. “I just kept talking. … I felt like I was being wronged, so it was natural to try and defend myself.”
The officer handcuffed Marcus, put him in a police car, and drove him home.
“My mom came; she talked to the officer. It was kind of a scary experience. I never thought that would be me,” Marcus said.
Tonight, Marcus sits with a baseball bat by his side. He and his father take turns staying awake through the night, watching the front door. He says he’s given thought to why some protestors have turned to violence and looting.
“I understand that they’re trying to make it for a cause. But it really isn’t, it’s just scattered ignorance,” Marcus said. “All our places are ruined because they’re rioting and everything. There are innocent people out there that they’re firing at.”
“If we want change, we need to unite.”
With that, Marcus turns his attention back to the television, which shows a man fall to the ground, apparently shot by a rubber bullet — less than a mile away.
After things quieted down, Moore’s husband drove Stephanie and me back to our cars so we could get home safely. But for many who live in Ferguson, daily life won’t be safe for quite some time.